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Francesco Carubbi - Top 30 Publications

Macrophage activation syndrome in Still's disease: analysis of clinical characteristics and survival in paediatric and adult patients.

Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) is a reactive form of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, complicating Still's disease, both in paediatric and adult patients. In this work, we aimed to investigate clinical picture and outcome of Still's disease patients developing MAS. We performed a retrospective analysis of patients, both paediatrics and adults, affected by Still's disease attending our department. During the follow-up, each patient was investigated for MAS occurrence and possible predictors, clinical and laboratory factors, were analysed. We evaluated 50 patients affected by Still's disease, 21 paediatric and 29 adult patients. Ten patients experienced MAS (five adult and five paediatric patients) and its development significantly reduced the survival rate when compared with patients without this complication (p < 0.0001). The analysis of possible predictors showed that high-value systemic score (p = 0.03) and high levels of serum ferritin (p = 0.002) were independently associated with an increased likelihood of MAS. MAS occurrence significantly reduced survival rate in both paediatric and adult patients affected by Still's disease. The high levels of serum ferritin and an elevated systemic score, at the time of diagnosis, were significantly associated with MAS.

Advances in immunopathogenesis of macrophage activation syndrome during rheumatic inflammatory diseases: toward new therapeutic targets?

Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) is a severe, hyperinflammatory life-threatening syndrome, generally complicating different rheumatic diseases. Despite the severity of the disease, little is known about the pathogenic mechanisms and, thus, possible targeted therapies in the management of these patients. Areas covered: In this review, we aimed to update the current pathogenic knowledge of MAS, during rheumatic diseases, focusing mainly on immunologic abnormalities and on new possible therapeutic strategies. Expert commentary: The difficult pathogenic scenario of MAS, in which genetic defects, predisposing diseases, and triggers are mixed together with the high mortality rate, make it difficult to manage these patients. Although most efforts have been focused on investigating the disease in children, in recent years, several studies are trying to elucidate the possible pathogenic mechanism in adult MAS patients. In this context, genetic and immunological studies might lead to advances in the knowledge of pathogenic mechanisms and possible new therapeutic targets. In the future, the results of ongoing clinical trials are awaited in order to improve the management and, thus, the survival of these patients.

Prevalence of type 2 diabetes and impaired fasting glucose in patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis: Results from a cross-sectional study.

Although the better management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has significantly improved the long-term outcome of affected patients, a significant proportion of these may develop associated comorbidities including cardiometabolic complications. However, it must be pointed out that a comprehensive cardiometabolic evaluation is still poorly integrated into the management of RA patients, due to a limited awareness of the problem, a lack of appropriate clinical studies, and optimal strategies for cardiovascular (CV) risk reduction in RA. In addition, although several studies investigated the possible association between traditional CV risk factors and RA, conflicting results are still available.On this basis, we planned this cross-sectional study, aimed at investigating the prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and impaired fasting glucose (IFG) in RA patients compared with age- and gender- matched control individuals. Furthermore, we analyzed the role of both traditional and RA-related CV risk factors in predicting T2D and IFG.We observed an increased prevalence of T2D in RA patients when compared with age- and gender-matched controls. Regression analyses demonstrated that the presence of high blood pressure (HBP), a longer disease duration, and exposure to corticosteroids (CCS) were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of being classified as T2D. In addition, we observed an increased prevalence of IFG in RA patients when compared with age- and gender-matched controls. Regression analyses demonstrated that a higher body mass index (BMI), the presence of metabolic syndrome (MetS), higher levels of total cholesterol, the presence of radiographic damage, and higher serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of presenting IFG.In this cross-sectional study, we observed an increased prevalence of T2D and IFG in an Italian cohort of RA patients when compared with age- and gender-matched control individuals. Interestingly, both RA-specific features, such as disease duration, CCS exposure, and radiographic damage, and traditional CV risk factors, such as HBP and MetS, were significantly associated with glucose metabolism abnormalities.

The challenge to interpret conflicting results and the need of a univocal definition for germinal centres in primary Sjögren's syndrome.

International consensus: What else can we do to improve diagnosis and therapeutic strategies in patients affected by autoimmune rheumatic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritides, systemic sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, antiphospholipid syndrome and Sjogren's syndrome)?: The unmet needs and the clinical grey zone in autoimmune disease management.

Autoimmune diseases are a complex set of diseases characterized by immune system activation and, although many progresses have been done in the last 15years, several unmet needs in the management of these patients may be still identified. Recently, a panel of international Experts, divided in different working groups according to their clinical and scientific expertise, were asked to identify, debate and formulate a list of key unmet needs within the field of rheumatology, serving as a roadmap for research as well as support for clinicians. After a systematic review of the literature, the results and the discussions from each working group were summarised in different statements. Due to the differences among the diseases and their heterogeneity, a large number of statements was produced and voted by the Experts to reach a consensus in a plenary session. At all the steps of this process, including the initial discussions by the steering committee, the identification of the unmet needs, the expansion of the working group and finally the development of statements, a large agreement was attained. This work confirmed that several unmet needs may be identified and despite the development of new therapeutic strategies as well as a better understanding of the effects of existing therapies, many open questions still remain in this field, suggesting a research agenda for the future and specific clinical suggestions which may allow physicians to better manage those clinical conditions still lacking of scientific clarity.

Poor clinical response in rheumatoid arthritis is the main risk factor for diabetes development in the short-term: A 1-year, single-centre, longitudinal study.

Despite of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) provided different sets of recommendations for the management of cardiovascular risk in inflammatory arthritis patients, it must be pointed out that cardiometabolic comorbidity, such as type 2 diabetes (T2D), remains still underdiagnosed and undertreated in patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Prevalence and significance of anti-saccharomyces cerevisiae antibodies in primary Sjögren's syndrome.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a common yeast used in the food industry. IgG and IgA antibodies against the phosphopeptidomannan of the S. cerevisiae cell wall (ASCA) are a well known marker of disease severity in Crohn's disease. Moreover, a number of studies assessed ASCA in several systemic and organ-specific autoimmune diseases postulating molecular mimicry as a possible link between ASCA and autoimmunity. However, since they have never been tested in primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS), the purpose of this study was to investigate these antibodies in a large cohort of pSS patients, compared to healthy donors (HD), and their significance as potentially helpful biomarker in a clinical setting.

Pharmacological stress, rest perfusion and delayed enhancement cardiac magnetic resonance identifies a very early cardiac involvement in systemic sclerosis patients of recent onset.

To evaluate occult cardiac involvement in asymptomatic systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients by pharmacological stress, rest perfusion and delayed enhancement cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR), for a very early identification of patients at higher risk of cardiac-related mortality.

Cryoglobulinemia in Sjögren Syndrome: A Disease Subset that Links Higher Systemic Disease Activity, Autoimmunity, and Local B Cell Proliferation in Mucosa-associated Lymphoid Tissue.

To compare systemic disease activity by validated tools, i.e., the European League Against Rheumatism Sjögren Syndrome Disease Activity Index (ESSDAI) and the Clinical ESSDAI (ClinESSDAI) scores, between primary Sjögren syndrome (pSS) with positive serum cryoglobulins and pSS without serum cryoglobulins.

Correlation between ESSDAI and ClinESSDAI in a real-life cohort of patients with Sjögren's syndrome.


Increased Cardiovascular Events and Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: 1 Year Prospective Single Centre Study.

Several studies showed the close relationship between Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and cerebro-cardiovascular events (CVEs) and subclinical atherosclerosis. In this study, we investigated the occurrence of CVEs and subclinical atherosclerosis during the course of RA and we evaluated the possible role of both traditional cardiovascular (CV) and disease related risk factors to predict the occurrence of new CVEs and the onset of subclinical atherosclerosis.

Interstitial lung disease in systemic sclerosis: current and future treatment.

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) has the highest fatality rate among connective tissue diseases and is characterized by vascular damage, inflammation and fibrosis of the skin and various internal organs. Interstitial lung disease (ILD) frequently complicates SSc and can be a debilitating disorder with a poor prognosis. ILD is the most frequent cause of death in SSc, and the management of SSc-ILD patients is a great challenge. Early detection of pulmonary involvement based on a recent decline of lung function tests and on the extent of lung involvement at high-resolution computed tomography is critical for the best management of these patients. This article summarizes classification, pathogenesis, diagnosis, prognosis, survival and finally current and future treatment options in SSc-ILD.

Adult-onset Still's disease: evaluation of prognostic tools and validation of the systemic score by analysis of 100 cases from three centers.

Adult-onset Still's disease (AOSD) is rare inflammatory disease of unknown etiology that usually affects young adults. The more common clinical manifestations are spiking fevers, arthritis, evanescent rash, elevated liver enzymes, lymphadenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly, and serositis. The multi-visceral involvement of the disease and the different complications, such as macrophage activation syndrome, may strongly decrease the life expectancy of AOSD patients.

Biologic therapies and infections in the daily practice of three Italian rheumatologic units: a prospective, observational study.

Since the introduction of biologics, many concerns about the increased risk of infections have been reported and, to date, the real impact of infections on the daily practice in the rheumatologic centers is still largely unknown. In this work, we evaluated the infection rates associated with the use of biologics in a large cohort of patients. A prospective study, between January 2010 and December 2013, enrolling 731 rheumatic patients, was performed. Demographic and disease characteristics, therapies, comorbidities, and infectious events were recorded and statistically analyzed by multivariate analysis. Two-hundred thirty-five infectious episodes were observed in 28.4 % of patients. About total infections, bacteria were identified in 70.6 % of total cases and viruses in 18.3 %. The most common site of not-serious infection was the urinary tract. Duration of disease, longer follow-up, concomitant steroid therapy, and comorbidities were significantly associated with not-serious infection. In our cohort, 17 episodes fulfilled the criteria of serious infection and occurred in 17 different patients (2.3 %), the majority involving the lower respiratory tract. Serious infections were associated with the beginning of biologics in older age. Our prospective, observational study showed that, in daily practice, a lesser rate of serious as well as not-serious infections may be observed in rheumatic patients treated with biologics than those reported in previous papers. The most common sites of not-serious infections are both the urinary and the respiratory tracts, and for serious infections, the respiratory tract. When pathogens were isolated, we did not find any multidrug-resistant organism.

Prognostic factors of macrophage activation syndrome, at the time of diagnosis, in adult patients affected by autoimmune disease: Analysis of 41 cases collected in 2 rheumatologic centers.

Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) is a rare, life-threatening disease in which early diagnosis and aggressive therapeutic strategy may improve the outcome. Due to its rarity, epidemiologic data are still lacking. Hyperferritinemia is frequently associated with MAS and might modulate the cytokine storm, which is involved in the development of multiple organ failure. In this paper, we investigated clinical data, treatments, and outcome of a homogeneous cohort of 41 adult MAS patients, complicating autoimmune rheumatic diseases. MAS-related death occurred in 17 patients (42.5%) during the follow-up, and older age and increased serum ferritin levels, at the time of diagnosis, were significantly associated with mortality. In conclusion, adult MAS is associated with high mortality rate. Some clinical features at diagnosis may be predictive of MAS-associated death.

Persistence of focal lymphocytic sialadenitis in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome treated with rituximab: a possible role for glandular BAFF.


Searching for a good model for systemic sclerosis: the molecular profile and vascular changes occurring in UCD-200 chickens strongly resemble the early phase of human systemic sclerosis.

Vascular injury and endothelial cell (EC) apoptosis are the earliest events in systemic sclerosis (SSc), before the onset of fibrosis, and stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGFA), endothelin-1 (ET-1) and platelet-derived growth factors (PDGF-BB) represent the key molecules to study the link between vascular injury and fibrosis during SSc. The University of California at Davis line 200 (UCD-200) chickens display the same hallmarks of human SSc: vascular occlusion, perivascular lymphocytic infiltration and fibrosis of skin and internal organs. In this study we assessed both cytokines and growth factors involved in the early phases of the UCD-200 chickens' skin lesions, to determine whether these animals might represent an appropriate experimental model to study the pathogenesis of SSc.

Perivascular Cells in Diffuse Cutaneous Systemic Sclerosis Overexpress Activated ADAM12 and Are Involved in Myofibroblast Transdifferentiation and Development of Fibrosis.

Microvascular damage is pivotal in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc), preceding fibrosis, and whose trigger is not still fully understood. Perivascular progenitor cells, with profibrotic activity and function, are identified by the expression of the isoform 12 of ADAM (ADAM12) and this molecule may be upregulated by transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β). The goal of this work was to evaluate whether pericytes in the skin of patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc (dcSSc) expressed ADAM12, suggesting their potential contribution to the fibrotic process, and whether TGF-β might modulate this molecule.

Relevance of Interferon-Inducible Protein-16 Rather than Anti-Interferon-Inducible Protein-16 Autoantibodies as a Clinical and Pathogenic Biomarker in Primary Sjögren's Syndrome: Comment on the Article by Baer et al.

IL-1β at the crossroad between rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes: may we kill two birds with one stone?

Although in the past the prevention of joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was strongly emphasized, now a great interest is focused on associated comorbidities in these patients. Multiple data suggest that a large percentage of RA patients are affected by Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), whose incidence has reached epidemic levels in recent years, thus increasing the health care costs. A better knowledge about the pathogenesis of these diseases as well as the mechanisms of action of drugs may allow both policy designers and physicians to choose the most effective treatments, thus lowering the costs. This review will focus on the role of Interleukin (IL)-1β in the pathogenesis of both the diseases, the efficacy of IL-1 blocking molecules in controlling these diseases, and will provide information suggesting that targeting IL-1β, in patients affected by both RA and T2D, may be a promising therapeutic choice.

The Need to Target Mucosa-Associated Lymphoid Tissue for Preventing Lymphoma in Rheumatoid Factor-Positive Patients With Sjögren's Syndrome: Comment on the Article by Nocturne et al.

Safety and efficacy of intra-articular anti-tumor necrosis factor α agents compared to corticosteroids in a treat-to-target strategy in patients with inflammatory arthritis and monoarthritis flare.

The aim of this study was to assess safety and efficacy of ultrasonography (US)-guided intra-articular injections using tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers compared to corticosteroids in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or psoriatic arthritis (PsA) patients, experiencing refractory monoarthritis despite the current systemic therapy. Eighty-two patients were randomized to receive three intra-articular injections monthly of either corticosteroid or TNF blockers. Primary endpoints were the safety and an improvement greater than 20% for visual analogic scales of involved joint pain in patients injected with anti-TNFα. Further clinical, US, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) evaluations were considered secondary endpoints. Intra-articular TNF blockers are a safe strategy, determining a significant reduction of patient and physician reported clinical outcomes and US/MRI scores, in RA and PsA patients, when compared to intra-articular injections of corticosteroids. US guidance excluded the possibility to inject the drug in the wrong site, maximizing local effects, reducing systemic effects, and increasing the safety of the procedure. Patients with inflammatory monoarthritis could be successfully treated with US-guided intra-articular TNF blockers that are a safe and well tolerated procedure, to achieve a longstanding clinical and radiological good clinical response and/or disease remission.

Targeting the IL-23/IL-17 axis for the treatment of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

A growing amount of data supporting the pathogenic role of the IL-23/IL-17 axis in inflammatory/autoimmune disorders has provided the rationale to target the system for therapeutic purpose. Several compounds have been and are currently under intense investigation in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) yielding impressive results.

Macitentan inhibits the transforming growth factor-β profibrotic action, blocking the signaling mediated by the ETR/TβRI complex in systemic sclerosis dermal fibroblasts.

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a complex and not fully understood autoimmune disease associated with fibrosis of multiple organs. The main effector cells, the myofibroblasts, are collagen-producing cells derived from the activation of resting fibroblasts. This process is regulated by a complex repertoire of profibrotic cytokines, and among them transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) and endothelin-1 (ET-1) play a major role. In this paper we show that TGF-β and ET-1 receptors co-operate in myofibroblast activation, and macitentan, an ET-1 receptor antagonist binding ET-1 receptors, might interfere with both TGF-β and ET-1 pathways, preventing myofibroblast differentiation.

The Endothelial-mesenchymal Transition in Systemic Sclerosis Is Induced by Endothelin-1 and Transforming Growth Factor-β and May Be Blocked by Macitentan, a Dual Endothelin-1 Receptor Antagonist.

High endothelin-1 (ET-1) and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) levels may induce in healthy endothelial cells (EC) an endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT). The same cytokines are associated with fibrosis development in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Although EndMT has not been definitively shown in SSc, this process, potentially induced by a stimulatory loop involving these 2 cytokines, overexpressed in this disease might contribute to fibroblast accumulation in affected tissues. Macitentan (MAC), an ET-1 receptor antagonist interfering with this loop, might prevent EndMT and fibroblast accumulation.

Interferon gamma-inducible protein 16 in primary Sjögren's syndrome: a novel player in disease pathogenesis?

There is evidence that interferon is involved in the pathogenesis of primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS). The interferon-inducible IFI16 protein, normally expressed in cell nuclei, may be overexpressed, mislocalized in the cytoplasm and secreted in the extracellular milieu in several autoimmune disorders. This leads to tolerance breaking to this self-protein with consequent development of anti-IFI16 antibodies. The aim of this study was to identify the pathogenic and clinical significance of IFI16 and anti-IFI16 in pSS.

Anti-SSA/SSB-negative Sjögren's syndrome shows a lower prevalence of lymphoproliferative manifestations, and a lower risk of lymphoma evolution.

This study aims to compare clinical and laboratory features of patients who, while satisfying the American European Consensus Group (AECG) criteria for primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS), do not present the positivity for anti-Ro/SSA and/or anti-La/SSB, with patients that meet the AECG criteria and are positive for anti-Ro/SSA and/or anti-La/SSB.

Myositis in primary Sjögren's syndrome: data from a multicentre cohort.

In primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS), muscle pain and/or muscular weakness is relatively frequent while myositis has been reported in 3% of patients. The aim of this study was to describe the prevalence of myositis in a multicentre Italian pSS cohort and to address the clinical manifestations, histological findings and therapeutic strategies.

T Regulatory and T Helper 17 Cells in Primary Sjögren's Syndrome: Facts and Perspectives.

Historically, primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) was thought to be a T helper (h) 1 driven disease due to the predominance of CD4(+)T lymphocytes and their products in target organs and peripheral blood of patients. In the last decades, the identification of a number of T cell subsets, including Th17, T regulatory (Treg), and follicular helper T cells, challenged this long-standing paradigm and prompted to identify their role in pSS pathogenesis. In addition the impact of abnormal proinflammatory cytokine production, such as IL-6, IL-17, IL-22, and IL-23, has also attracted considerable attention. However, although several studies have been carried out in experimental models and patients with pSS, many aspects concerning the role of Treg cells and IL-17/Th17 cell system in pSS pathogenesis are not fully elucidated. In particular, the role played by different IL-17-producing T cell subsets as well as the effects of pharmacological therapies on Treg/Th17 cell balance represents an intriguing issue. The aim of this review article is to provide an overview of current knowledge on Treg cells and IL-17-producing T cells in pSS pathogenesis. We believe that these insights into pSS pathogenesis may provide the basis for successful therapeutic intervention in this disease.

Efficacy of inhibition of IL-1 in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes mellitus: two case reports and review of the literature.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune arthritis in which two inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β, play a critical role in the induction and progression of the disease. Several reports and data from registries have discussed the association between chronic inflammatory diseases and disorders in intermediary metabolism, pointing out that prevalence of peripheral insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus is increased among patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, several studies have shown that type 2 diabetes mellitus may be considered an interleukin-1β inflammatory-mediated process, and both preclinical and clinical observations have reported the usefulness of interleukin-1 antagonism therapy in this disease.